I am not your "ally"

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1530599986302{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]I am not your ally because we are not on separate teams.  If you are fighting inequity and social injustice then we are now and have always been on the same team.  Inequality and injustice affects us all as a society and it is the job of everyone to work towards a just, ethical and peaceful community.
If you distrust everyone whose birth parents come in a different colour than yours or whose life path has been different than yours, belongs to a different faith group, who may not have had the same challenges. or whose gender identity and preferences are different than yours–then I can’t help you with that prejudice you are nursing and I won’t waste my time on a cause that is not grounded on inclusion.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”7854″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1530601122250{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]When you identify some people as outsiders only able to act as secondary “allies” you are trivializing whole groups of people as mere “sidekicks”, shushing them with “check your privilege” when viewpoints differ, or the perspective of the outsider challenges the cherished beliefs of your inner circle.  Your cause ends up weakened by dismissing the contributions that could be made by people from outside your race/nationality/religion/gender expression.  Understanding is a two-way street and as much as I want to listen to you, you have to listen to me for us to understand each other.  If you demand the right to speak without obligation to also listen, you will not gain allies, you will isolate yourself and your cause, intellectually, politically, and economically.
There is more in common in the human experience than the narrow view of identity politics admits and the power of empathy allows human beings to transcend the limits of personal experience. It is the super-power of humanity to be able to see things through the eyes of the other.  When we trust in that ability and work through to common ground, we accomplish great things. The truth of what is being said should always be more important than the identity of the speaker.  There is no racial or cultural copyright on the truth.
We also cannot forget that often the weakest of us are oppressed by members of their own culture. When we give undue privilege to self-appointed spokespeople because of historic injustice against a group they claim to speak for, we can inadvertently abandon those without power to continued oppression. When no one within a community can speak up, someone from outside needs to do so and it is time we stopped shushing those outsiders speaking truth to insider power.
This is a time when some frightening forces are rising in the world with the goal of fascist oppression of many of us and the first tool of fascists is the creation of racial, tribal, religious and gender divides. Why would we want to help with that process by weakening and dividing social justice fighters?
One of the things that puzzle me the most is why so many social activists meekly stand by and accept this divisive climate of identity politics. We’ve never caved so easily. There’s always been people trying to silence dissent within progressive movements. I remember people turning off microphones or ignoring questions from the floor or otherwise rigging debate from my earliest days of social action, but that just made dissenters angrier and louder until all voices were heard. Finding common ground and building coalitions is hard, noisy, untidy work. Even with the best intentions consensus tends to need constant work and repair. But it is what we have to do if we are to succeed in defending human rights in this era where they are under attack everywhere. Have we grown too lazy and complacent to do the work? I hope not.
Now, more than ever before it is true that “United we stand. Divided we fall.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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#MeToo is only one symptom of what is ailing the arts workplace

No one working in the Arts has failed to cheer the fresh air blowing in the window in the wake of the #MeToo movement but there is also a ripple of disquiet about what’s NOT being said about the atmosphere that has allowed abusive environments to flourish and the broader subject of abuse and bullying in the sector. 

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Ottawa Days of Action to End Canadian Involvement in Torture, October 24-26

Join the CSI: Ottawa Days of Action to End Canadian Involvement in
Torture, October 24-26
We Cannot Let Canadian Individuals and Institutions Get Away With

In addition to many reasons already listed (see http://
), here’s three more good reasons to join us:

1. CSIS and the RCMP, which were found to be complicit in the torture
of Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, and
Muayyed Nureddin while all were detained in Syria, have been silent
on their ongoing relationship with Syrian Military Intelligence,
which regularly engages in torture and is complicit in the mass
detentions and horrific acts of torture and murder that have been
taking place for years and which have intensified during 2011 in
response to demands for democracy.

Leading up to CSI Ottawa and during those three days, we will seek a
public statement from both agencies that they have (or will
immediately) break all ties with Syrian Military Intelligence and
that they will apologize for their past relationship with such a
blood-stained agency (as well as to those tortured with Canadian

2. A Libyan-Canadian citizen who was imprisoned and tortured for
eight years by the Gaddafi regime says that agents from the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) were among foreign agents who
interrogated him. Documents confirming this were found by members of
Human Rights Watch. See http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/09/28/canada-

This is of course a common practice that CSIS will partner with
brutal, torturing regimes such as Syria, Egypt, and Libya and then
claim that they “did not know” or “did not have available to them”
publicly available reports of systematic torture.

3. On 18 October 2008, Ivan Apaolaza Sancho was deported from Canada
by special charter flight, manacled hand and foot, and handed over to
authorities in Spain. The deportation was a bitter ending to a
fifteen month campaign in which the Basque man was imprisoned in
Montreal, denied the right to apply for refugee status, and
eventually deported – all on the basis of information that a Canadian
tribunal recognized was obtained under torture.

Members of the Caravan to End Canadian Involvement in Torture raised
Ivan’s case across the province in 2008. Now, he faces a trial after
three years of detention in Spain, and could be jailed for 30 years.
More at http://www.peoplescommission.org/en/sancho/

The culture of impunity around Canadian involvement in torture is
widespread. Officials in numerous government agencies complicit in
the torture of Canadian citizens, refugees and permanent residents
continue to proceed with the dangerous assumption that when it comes
to torture, whether “direct or indirect,” they can get away with it.
While Canadians were rightly upset that the government did not arrest
visiting individuals who are proudly complicit in torture (such as
Dick Cheney and George W. Bush), we also need to focus on the fact
that officials here in Canada continue to engage in policies and
decisions which result in the most unimaginable of human rights abuses.

CSI Ottawa is an attempt to remind the public, and the government,
that they cannot get away with their involvement in torture, and that
our exercise of direct democracy and seeking accountability will not
end until permanent changes are made.

Join CSI Ottawa: Ending Canadian Involvement in Torture
Organized by Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, a wholly realized
subsidiary of the Homes not Bombs network, tasc@web.ca

TASC mailing list

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Muslim & American Extremists censoring Art

In the Time magazine article Indonesia’s Artists vs. Muslim Extremists,by Jason Tedjasukmana, the author decries the “Talibanization” of Art in Indonesia. He recounts a story of religious fundamentalists defacing a statue of nude women with spray paint. Government officials and police did nothing to intervene in this and other incidents within Indonesia. There is a certain sanctimonious tone to the story. “Here in the democratic West we are so much better than that” is the assumption of the article. “Our secular society does not allow the religious nutty fringe to dictate our policies toward art”…. but is that true?

Earlier this month, at a virtual worlds event, in the leading edge of 3D art, an installation by Rose Borchovski was summarily ejected by organizers because the art’s nude figures were in violation of the zoning restrictions in the virtual world. Last fall, Linden Lab, the creators of the Second Life virtual world caved in to pressures from American social conservatives to push “adult” content into virtual red-light districts. One would expect openness and sophistication in the high tech international community of virtual reality residents and the arts community. Instead Linden Lab seems to have chosen to “Taliban-ize” expression within Second Life more effectively than the Indonesians with spray cans.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Abousfian Abdelrazik Speaks in Toronto

Forwarded from TASC

Delist and Desist!
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture.
Abousfian Abdelrazik Speaks in Toronto
With an Introduction by Dr. Sherene Razack

Thursday, October 8, 2009, 7:15 pm
Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street (just west of St. George, south of

Abousfian Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen who was detained, interrogated, and tortured in Sudan with the complicity of our own government (see http://peoplescommission.org/en/abdelrazik/ for further background). Indeed, the Federal Court of Canada found earlier this
year that spy agency CSIS was complicit in his detention.

His six-year saga of trying to come home to his loved ones (including a year-plus stay in a small corner of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum) was blocked at every stage by a variety of levels of the Canadian government, including CSIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Never charged, he was beaten, threatened and tortured during two periods of detention. Abdelrazik was interrogated by CSIS officials, and separately by Sudanese and French intelligence agents and the FBI. The Canadian embassy was instructed by the Canadian government that: “Mission staff should not accompany Abdelrazik to his interview with
the FBI.”

Released and cleared of all suspicion by Sudan in 2006, and then by the RCMP and CSIS in late 2007, his many attempts to return home to Montreal were repeatedly blocked.

The grass roots efforts of hundreds of people across Canada led to a historic court order that forced the Canadian government to allow Abdelrazik to come home. He was finally reunited with his family in June of this year. Yet his struggle continues.

His name remains on the United Nations 1267 list. This list imposes a travel ban and complete asset freeze on listed individuals. Canadian regulations implementing the 1267 list prohibit anyone from providing Abdelrazik with any material aid – including salary, loans of any
amount, food or clothing. This makes it impossible for him to live a normal life.

Abdelrazik was not told that he was being placed on the list, was not told why he was on the list, and was given no opportunity to defend himself. As Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn said in his ruling forcing the government to let Abdelrazik return, “There is nothing in the (1267) listing or de-listing procedure that recognizes the principles of natural justice or that provides for basic procedural fairness.”

No one has been held responsible for the grave injustices and terrible violence he has suffered.

As Abdelrazik undertakes the challenge of recovering a life of dignity for himself and his family, Mr. Abdelrazik is coming to Toronto as part of a national speaking tour so that he can meet his supporters and share his story in person. It is his hope to be “delisted” from the UN list, and to see true accountability at the federal government level.

Mr. Abdelrazik’s horrific experience is part of a broader Canadian pattern of involvement in torture, and his talk on October 8 kicks off a speakers series that will focus on other cases of Canadian complicity in the most brutal human rights abuses imaginable. Watch for future
speaking events featuring Abdullah Almalki (http://www.abdullahalmalki.com/), individuals subject to secret trial security certificates, a focus on Canadian involvement in the U.S.-based School of the Assassins, Benamar Benatta (http://benamarbenatta.com/), and more.

(Dr. Sherene Razack is a professor, Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She is also the author of the remarkable Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics as well as
Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism)

Organized by Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture and Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada, endorsed by the Centre for Integrated Anti-Racism Studies (CIARS) at OISE.

Sponsored nationally by Project Fly Home, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Council of Canadians, Council on American-Islamic Relations – Canada (CAIRCAN), International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), and the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA).

If you cannot make it to the Toronto event, Mr. Abdelrazik is speaking in many other parts of Canada. See his schedule at http://peoplescommission.org/en/abdelrazik/events.php

For further information: tasc@web.ca, (416) 651-5800 ext. 1

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Bottled Water Boycott

I have been viewing with interest the development of a broadbased boycott of bottled water. When the United Church of Canada announced their endorsement of a boycott of bottled water, the issue hit the mainstream in Canada.

I find this a very heartening sign in several ways. First it signals that there are growing numbers of people who believe that some of the basics of life really should not have a price tag. Secondly it signals once again a growing alignment of the religious Left with the political Left, a coalition that is necessary to gain the broadbased support to challenge the populist support of the far Right.

Lastly, this issue is a very sophisticated one to have the populist appeal that it does. It is commonly taught in political campaign schools that the vast majority of the public cannot hold two ideas in their minds at the same time so political arguments cannot pose complex chains of logic…despite most political issues requiring two or more steps. Usually analysis of election results show that people have bought very simple arguments such as, “It’s time for change”, “Throw the bums out, they’re crooked”, or “Let’s give them another chance” and tapping into those simple powerful messages is the way to win elections.

But let’s look at the messaging in the bottled water boycott.

1. When I drink bottled water, I care less about the safety of tap water.
2. If everyone cares less about the safety of tap water, it may decline in quality.
3. If it declines in quality those who cannot afford bottled water will get sick from tap water.
4. Therefore bottled water is immoral, unethical and I will not buy it.

Fully four steps of political reasoning involved in this issue. Wow! And it is gaining momentum. We should all be encouraged.

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Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Michael Franti: I Know I'm not Alone

Michael Franti’s journey to the Middle East is recorded in the film I Know I’m Not Alone . His trip to play some music, chat to some people, jam with other musicians and see for himself what’s happenin’ seems like such an ordinary thing for an artist to do. However when it is the war zones of Iraq and the Gaza strip that he is touring to, the normalcy of many of his encounters seem abnormal. Yet in crossing the ocean and the barriers of war it seems that he shows the absurdity and unnecessary nature of war.

He makes it seem so easy, just take the step, reach out to individual human beings–victims of war and agressors– and make peace happen in the world.

I wiewed the film tonight at the Friends Meeting House in Toronto with some people from other peace groups. Members of Christian Peacemaker teams were there also, poignantly mourning the loss of Tom Fox in Iraq. The fact that peacemaking could also be very personally dangerous was very much in the room with the small group of about 30 gathered around the TV monitor. The film was introduced by a woman who had been in Iraq in 2004 with CPT. She struck a note that was harmonious with the film when she said that she never felt more unsafe than at times when she was near people with guns. She gave an example of travelling for a time with a NY Times reporter to report on CPT work there. The NY Times provided armed guards, a convoy of armed vehicles and everyone wore flak jackets. The site of the group travelling provoked hostile reactions and looks from many people as they travelled. Going about Iraq unarmed felt much, much safer.

I left the film wondering if a critical mass of people like Franti really could make a difference by refusing to be frightened of reaching out to those we’ve been told we should fear. I was reminded of other symbolic acts of peace that I had witnessed in my life, some even by people I was privileged to know. I don’t know if it will make a difference but it seems like the only thing that one can do. I hope Franti is right–that he is not alone.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Here from There

In the picture on the right here are some of the littlest protestors. Their signs proclaim their “Right to Play”

This photo was taken at International Children’s Day celebrations in Varanasi India. In such a world it seems hard to justify the time to blog.

Whenever anyone would talk to me about their blogs, they’d often talk about it as a way of living an examined life and a way of making sense of the past by constructing some sort of linear narrative about their life.

Makes sense. Perhaps a worthy goal but . . . Why did that make me feel tired?

I guess when you are at or past the halfway point of a lifespan as I am, you really want to live in the NOW more. You also want to look ahead and plan the best use of the future. Enough of looking back already.

Besides how much of life is linear?

Not my life. It has been one of flying off madly in all directions or gently falling from place to place in the currents of change and happenstance.

I am currently working for an organization called World Literacy of Canada. The picture above was taken at one of our programs in India. It’s a bit of a departure after having worked in the Arts exclusively for the past decade. But on the whole I am feeling more myself these days. It was one of those falling backwards by mistake into something that works, at least for a time. While I came in applying for one job and was hired for something entirely different, there’s been a lot about the past year that has been a great “fit”. I’ve met some wonderful talented and inspiring people and there have been many high points.

Right now I am really hoping that I will be able to apply for and receive funding for a pilot project that would link some literacy programs in India with classrooms in Canada. The goal would be to share stories about children’s daily lives between Canadian children and some of the poorest kids in India. The kids in WLC tutoring programs cannot afford to attend regular schooling.

So my starting point is Now.

Maybe along the way how I got here from there might be relevant.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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